David Hearn was easy to spot. He was the only golfer left on the practice putting green. A solitary figure whose silhouette was starting to fade in the soft light of a Midwest summer’s evening.
It was Saturday night at the John Deere Classic and Hearn had played himself into the final pairing for Sunday. This would be his chance. The chance to win for the first time on the PGA TOUR and Hearn wasn’t going into that final round unprepared. So, long after everyone else had left the course, Hearn remained on that practice putting green, rolling home 5-footer after 5-footer.
Since 2010, Hearn has improved his putting. His rank in strokes gained-putting shows a steady upward curve, improving each season: 87th-71st-43rd-14th.
Sunday was going to be his day. The day when that practice would pay off with a win. On the fourth playoff hole, from just inside of 5 feet, Hearn had a roll at victory. That same 5-footer he methodically made time and again on Saturday evening, lipped out on Sunday night. PGA TOUR statistics show Hearn makes that putt 87.5 percent of the time this season.
Fifteen minutes later the playoff was complete and it was Jordan Spieth, not Hearn, who had won for the first time on the PGA TOUR.
Golf can be the cruelest of games because it gives the examination first and the lesson later. Practice does not make perfect. Sometimes an extended period of work does not show results until months later.
Hearn said all the right things following the defeat. He offered sincere congratulations to Spieth and reasoned his next opportunity might be the one that results in victory.
The only problem: Golf never guarantees us a “next” time.
How wonderful would it be if this were Hearn’s week for victory? Playing in Canada, where all native sons are regarded as rock stars on the golf course. Mike Weir draws a huge gallery. Moe Norman’s name is still muttered with reverence and you can drop Pat Fletcher’s name into casual conversation without needing an explanation.
If you want to find Hearn, just look at the putting green. He’ll be rolling 5-footers, hoping this week is his “next” time.
Undervalued: I always get the impression the golfing public undervalues this tournament because of its slot on the schedule. The RBC Canadian Open seems squeezed between The Open Championship and a World Golf Championship. In truth, only a prestigious event could survive and thrive this week. PGA TOUR players greatly respect this tournament and its title. There are 29 golfers who played in The Open that are competing this week and many of those will make the trip down to Akron for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational next week. You have to really respect a tournament that takes on – and succeeds – in such a spot on the schedule.
Drainage: Players may not notice many changes at Glen Abbey but if they could peal back the turf they would notice the differences. Rain plagued the PGA TOUR’s last visit to Glen Abbey and officials realized changes had to be made. Bunkers were redone with improved drainage along with low-lying problem areas of the golf course. That new drainage has been vital during a wet spring. Nothing improves a golf course as quickly as proper drainage and yet it gets little notice.
Star power: Because of the pressure of playing in his native country, I can’t fully endorse Graham DeLaet’s selection this week but I can easily see him winning in the near future. DeLaet leads the TOUR in greens in regulation and had posted 10 top-25 finishes in 20 starts. Everything about him says star power, from the colorful plaid slacks to his length off the tee. DeLaet needs to tighten his putting just a little ... he ranks 91st in strokes gained putting … but DeLaet is poised to become a winner on the PGA TOUR.
Winner, winner: Brandt Snedeker’s season was derailed with a rib injury that is just now fully healed. Recent results indicate Snedeker is poised for his second win of the PGA TOUR season. Snedeker was 17th at the U.S. Open, eighth at AT&T National and T11th at Muirfield in the Open Championship. He also tied for fifth in the 2009 RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey. All the metrics point toward a Snedeker win this week.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here